phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

When I count, there are only you and i together

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 10, 2010 at 18:16

In Reply to: When I count, there are only you and i together posted by Baceseras on June 28, 2010 at 11:42:

: : : Third man syndrome -- Also third man factor. Sensing an unseen presence during times of extreme stress and/or isolation. The expression was used by Ann Bancroft, first woman to cross the ice of the North Pole, on "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me, National Public Radio (NPR) 26 June 2010. "The Third Man Factor" by John Geiger documents scores of examples. More information about the expression here:

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: : I was caught off guard by the name of the syndrome. I expected something involving a hammered dulcimer, or a Ferris wheel in the Prater.

: : I didn't know of this experience until ESC provided us with it. But it fits what I have been reading lately. Apparently the brain, working below the conscious level, can provide very precise hallucinations, some of which seem tailored to very specific situations.

: : Sharon Begley's article on "The Hidden Brain" seems very relevant, although she does not discuss particular situations in detail. See:

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: : Recently there was a TV program on the "out-of-body experience," which sometimes involves "hallucinations" of seeing the doctors working on your body, and hearing their conversation, or at least scraps of it. I use quotation marks with hallucinations because they sometimes contain verifiable information.
: : SS

: Who is the third who walks always beside you?
: When I count, there are only you and I together
: But when I look ahead up the white road
: There is always another one walking beside you .

: T.S. Eliot, _The Wasteland_, part V, lines 359 ff.

: [Eliot's note:] The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.

: [Commentator's note:] B.C. Southam has traced the account to chapter 10 of Sir Ernest Shackleton's book South .

Apparently John Geiger's 209 book on "The Third Man Factor" is well-known, although I didn't know of it until ESC's welcome post. Besides the Wikipedia article to which she provides a link, yo might wish to read a review of the book. For one review among many, see:


In the April, 2010, issue of "Scientific American" (on p. 34), Michael Shermer has an essay on "The Sense-Presence Effect," which adds some information and speculation to what Geiger has published. Geiger, for instance, lists various conditions conducive to the third-man effect, such as monotaony, drakness, barren landscaes, solation, cold, injury dehyration, hunger, fatigue and fear. Shermer adds sleep deprivation.

Schermer presents the case for left-hemisphere rationalizations for "right-hemisphere anomalies," and mentions that the conditions listed all add up to loss of control by the cerebral cortex. For Shermer's article, see:

Rhe article may appear on other web-sites.